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November 2014
Issue: February 1, 2013

Review: Avid Media Composer 6.5

By: Brady Betzel
PRODUCT: Avid Media Composer 6.5

WEBSITE: www.avid.com

PRICING: Full system, $2,499; Upgrading from older version, $499-$599; “Cross Grading” from a Final Cut Pro, $1,499; Academic version, $295

- AS-02 archiving workflow
- Expanded relink options
- Edit titles directly in the timeline

Over the last year nonlinear editors have been shaken and strained. But Avid has been a mainstay in broadcast television, film and audio production/post for a little over a quarter of a century and continues to dominate with its latest update to Media Composer and Symphony 6.5.

Avid Media Composer and Symphony have always been the workhorses alongside Unity and ISIS networked storage products. In this most recent update, Version 6.5, Avid has given its users continued reliability with its ever-expanding set of features.
 
WHAT’S NEW

Some of the hot new features in Media Composer 6.5 are copying and pasting of audio keyframe attributes, dragging non-adjacent segments in the timeline (no need to select filler anymore!), edit titles directly in the timeline, AS-02 archival integration, expanded DNxHD compression codecs, greatly expanded relink options, and expansion to 64 voices. 

One feature that seems to be misunderstood is the expansion from 16 to 64 active voices. I often hear editor’s misconceptions that they will be able to add 64 tracks of audio to their timeline and monitor all of them; this is not true. These are 64 voices not tracks, voices are defined by Avid as “discrete audio stream[s] that you send from an audio track to physical audio outputs, such as speakers or output channels. Mono audio clips use a single voice. A stereo clip uses two voices, and a 5.1 or 7.1 surround clip uses six or eight voices.” 



In Media Composer 6.5 you are able to monitor 24 audio tracks simultaneously. Prior to 6.5, Media Composer could only monitor 16 at a time with 8 additional tracks available but powered off. Technically, you have the ability to monitor 24 mono audio tracks (24 voices), 24 stereo tracks (48 voices), ten 5.1 multichannel audio tracks (60 voices), or eight 7.1 multichannel audio tracks (64 voices). Hopefully this can eliminate the confusion for some bright-eyed editors wanting to add 60 tracks of music/sound effects to their four channels of dialogue or production sound.

One highly anticipated feature for many is the ability to drag non-adjacent segments without filler using the segment tool. The days of having to shift+click all the filler between shots are over. In the Media Composer 6.5.2 update, holding Alt on Windows or Option on a Macintosh while clicking the “Select Left” or “Select Right” command will select everything but the filler — a really great addition. 

Another feature that has been missing from Media Composer and Symphony is the ability to paste attributes. Unfortunately, effect attributes still cannot be copied and pasted, however, audio keyframe attributes (Gain/Pan) can now be copied, pasted and modified in the dialogue that pops up when pasted in the timeline. These keyframes can now be nudged when using Shift+Command or Control+Shift with the arrow keys to move up/down in 1dB increments or left/right in time.

One subtle 6.5.2 update is hidden in the Export Settings dialogue under Sequential files when exporting an image sequence. If “Markers Only” is selected, it will only export the frames that have markers on them. If “Use Comment” is checked, the corresponding filename will be what is typed as the comment. 

Relinking in Avid has been a mystery to many. So this may be more “exciting” for the organizational types, but it is a pretty big deal. We can now relink by timecodes: Start, Aux TC1-5 or Sound Timecode; Source names: many of the columns available in bins are now available as relink options such as Source File ID, Source File Name, etc.; Ignore Extensions, in case you used a low resolution JPEG and now have a high-resolution TIFF; Ignore characters after the last occurrence of specified text; Target (if different from original): if the post house encoded the source name to a different column than the original you can set this column appropriately. 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

An update that I find to be one of the most important to those willing to embrace it is the AS-02 Export Volume support. AS-02 is as Avid describes, “a specification for grouping multiple versions of program content into one single bundle.” An example of using AS-02 for archival purposes would be: different deliverables for a network with the same video but multiple versions of audio layouts.



This can potentially cut down archival file size by a lot. Each AS-02 bundle contains the Asset.mxf (sequence); Manifest.xml (meta data; version info; and list of all files and folders in the bundle); Shim.xml (templates and settings that constrain the rules for a specific facility); Extra folder (contains unflattened sequence (AAF composition only); and any other files that should travel with the bundle). The AS-02 supports J2K, uncompressed 10-bit RGB, DNxHD, AVCI, IMX and Uncompressed 8-bit for SD for archive.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Avid has taken their 64-bit powerhouse Media Composer and Symphony to the next level without abandoning their loyal costumer base with the 6.5 update. They continue to improve and, more importantly, listen to customer requests for a better, faster and cheaper pro post solution. The 6.5 update is a definite buy for those with a large tapeless workflow — the relinking options have really been amped up, and your assistant editor will thank you. 

In the future I suspect we will be seeing resolution independence (RI) inside of Media Composer and Symphony, but for now Avid offers its DS suite for a round-trip RI finishing solution. For those looking for answers online, check out http://community.avid.com forums, the Avid-L2 group, and on Twitter using the hashtag #postchat and following @Avid. 

Brady Betzel (bradybetzel@gmail.com) is an Assistant Editor with Bunim Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA.